Public consultative meeting
Khekiye K. Sema
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Government’s desire to sift through the raging controversies being expressed in the public domain concerning issues that would have a wide ranging implication in the destiny of our future generation is well received as long as it is an honest exercise being conducted with conclusions derived from it becoming the policy of the Government. The following issues are being deliberated upon:
1. Assembly resolution on setting up of proposed Nagaland State Development Zones (NSDZs);
2. Draft Nagaland Investment Board (NIB) Bill;
3. Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP Act);
Each of the above mentioned controversial agendas would need at least one clear day each to really arrive at a well balanced rational conclusion that is based on the truest value analysis. To make a policy decision from a highly decompressed timeframe of a few hours of deliberation would probably leave behind an element of uncertainty. Taking the ground reality constraints into consideration, with a multitude of speakers wanting on the sideline to speak, it would be impossible for anyone to comprehensively present a sensible input on all the three major issues in just a couple of minutes given to each speakers at best. It would dilute the sincere undertaking of the Government to that extent. While being invited by the Government for this meeting, which I look forward to attend, I have therefore felt it more viable to present my views in the print media for a more comprehensive deliberation that a few minutes will never afford me to cover. The Nagas have reached a very critical crossroad. Our decision today will determine the future of the coming generation. It would do the Nagas well to remember that the generation before us also had to face similar critical decisions in the past on a varied degree. God seemed to have withdrawn His wisdom from our leaders when honest application of mind was needed the most. Instead, vested interest seemed to have fogged up their judgement at the most crucial juncture of history and today we are struggling with the consequence of a divided house within the NNM.In the hope that we all do better this time round, here goes:1. Nagaland State Development Zones (NSDZs): There is no harm done for the Government to want special development Zones established. However, the thin red line gets crossed with the Government’s intent to “evolve a system of permanent settlement for non-Nagas for the purpose of investment in the NSDZs” and to “liberalise the system of entry and stay of non-Nagas in the NSDZs for the purpose of investment”. The above stated intent drastically violates the fundamental structure of the Constitutional protection as articulated in Article 371 (A). Nagas never seem to understand the full significance of this Constitutional provision. Take the example of all the Laws enacted by the Indian Parliament requiring a ratification of the State Legislative Assembly to make it applicable to the State of Nagaland. Have our Assembly ever ratified any enacted law of the Indian Parliament to date? We have allowed such Laws to become a part of our system without question. This is a serious default. From a technical standpoint of Customary Laws and Practices, many of the Laws enacted by the Indian Parliament could perhaps be construed as illegal laws for Nagaland, under this Constitutional framework. Take the case of Armed Forces Special Powers Act for instance. It is an abuse of our customary Laws whatever be the circumstances. When we ourselves deliberately devalue our constitutionally protected status we have no one else to blame. We go further by scuttling the very provisions of protection by visualising such an expressed intent. Article 371 (A) was not a free gift of India to the Nagas. This provision was purchased by Naga blood unlike any other Articles of the Constitution of India. Further, the Inner line Permit regulation is an important Act that defines the status and identity of the Nagas. We have absolutely pilfered this status to nothingness by making it a pocket money making mechanism by the Administrators. With this continued dismantling of all the special protective measures as enshrined in the Constitution, we will reach a point where our very existence will become meaningless second rate citizens of this country. We would only be encouraging the GoI to finally do away with Article 371 (A) and with our kind of presence in the Parliament it will not be too difficult for them to do so when we ourselves show them the way. We need to sensitively keep the long term perspective concerning our identity and the dignity of our existence in mind at all time because we are an absolute minority in a country of billions. We are nothing without these protective clauses within the Constitution that even they, the Indians, will have to respect and honour. Nagas must learn to grow within our own means without trying to accelerate beyond our control.
No sensible person would object to creating a Development Zone under a well regulated norm for the Nagas of Nagaland to grow within these zones, but legalising land ownership for non-Nagas for the purpose of investment is as good as digging our own graves. Further, with corruptive money as the deciding factor in the entire decision making mechanism (which will definitely be the case), the so called special development zone will become a special disaster zone overpopulated with IBIs as a starter. Other equally dangerous elements will also come to play. The present AK 47 culture will cause all the regulatory norms being cast out of the window. It will become a fertile zone for rehabilitation of other Tribes who do not have ancestral land in Nagaland. It will have disastrous political and social ramifications. Is there anyone in Nagaland capable of standing his/her ground with AK 47 pointed at his/her head and being asked to say that “an orange is an apple” and refuse? Everyone without acceptation will gladly confirm that “an orange is an apple” if AK 47 is pointed at them. Believe me I have yet to meet anyone willing to die for nothing, least of all the Politicians and the State Government functionaries from top to bottom. The time is not ripe for NSDZs to be executed in its present form and under the present volatile environment.
2. Draft Nagaland Investment Board (NIB), Bill: I shall reserve my general comment and only say that I do not foresee anything going wrong with this Bill as long as it is not being proposed with NSDZs as the only focus.
3. Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP Act): I had written a small article in the local media congratulating the Mizoram Government for lifting the Prohibition in their state and added a few of my argument as to why Nagaland should follow suit. It was heartening to see a flurry of raging arguments in favour or against Prohibition thereafter, with both camps throwing up reasonably convincing arguments. The time now has come for us to take a pragmatic look at this mother of all hypocrisy, by taking the ground realities into matured consideration.
1. From theological perspective God gave human beings the freedom of choice. The Church would do well to consider not overruling the will of God they pray to. Period.
2. The often used argument about the loss of State Revenue is the least of our problem. In this context, what happened in the USA should be a lesson that should be taken into account with utmost seriousness. They too went through hell to lift their Prohibition after seeing the greater social evils being caused by Prohibition. Today the bootleggers are operating at a lesser magnitude without too much of infighting between themselves. Remember we are talking about M-O-N-E-Y making organization. The steady increase of volume in their ugly business will usher in a greater threat to the society by way of ‘turf wars’ and every other conceivable evil. The well armed Gangster ‘turf wars’ evolved to an organized crime called the “Mafias” in the USA and became entrenched as a second layer of a Government system well after Prohibition was lifted. Their business concerns expanded to organised prostitution, drugs, gambling, ‘forced business protection tax’ and more. It still exists today. To clearly understand this picture let us take the example of our very own home grown Naga Political Groups who relentlessly raise ‘sovereignty tax’ from the people with their AK 47 in hand. We pay taxes not to their organisations but to AK 47 because of the death threats. The people have been silenced by fear and each one of us knows this as well as the next. This was what the “mafias” had been able to accomplish along the way too. They penetrated deep into the Government machinery bribing Congressmen, Senators, Judiciary and every other infrastructure…comfortably getting away even with murder because people were afraid to testify against them at the cost of their lives. We often hear law breakers being acquitted or being promptly given bail by the Courts despite public outcry. These are signs of the growing disease within our own community. With the passage of time this money disease will lead our present day bootleggers to greater competition where violence will become a life style. The Naga political problem will not last forever… our NPGs would hopefully become normal people…but would the Nagas be prepared to go through another perpetual spell of fear this time through the armed gangs of organized crime? I am not attempting to be an alarmist but what happened in the USA can happen in Nagaland too with money in the driving seat.
3. I have already made a point that no law will ever be successful when the enforcers are the users. I have candidly stated that liquor flows like a perennial stream right from the Chief Minister’s Banquet Hall down to the lower ranks. We need to get realistic and at least spare ourselves this deliberate hypocrisy. We all have more than our share of other sins to contend with.
4. Alcoholism is a disease like any others. It needs medical attention and rehabilitation treatment and not casually be written off as a sinner’s syndrome. Government should instead consider setting up of a well organized and equipped rehabilitation centres in the State and in every district if possible, to treat the alcoholics who will remain…prohibition or not.
5. The final issue is for the Church to unambiguously come out with their stand on this issue. It is quite understandable for the Church to want to spare its congregation from this deadly temptation. Therefore entreating with the Government not to lift the Prohibition is a role they have no choice but to play. There is however a very serious misunderstanding amongst the Politicians that the Church will blackmail them at the time of election by asking all the Churches to vote against them. Is the Church guilty of this ‘blackmail’ threat? The Legislators are apprehensive of this possibility and therefore have been perfunctorily upholding “Prohibition” even as they lovingly hold on to their glass of whiskey or wine. The reality is that the Politicians know for sure that they will not win an election without buying votes. Now ask yourselves: who are these voters? The majority are those who go to Church every Sunday. The politicians know precisely the kind of voters they are dealing with. They also know that their money talks quite convincingly but they are still afraid of the voters’ shadow in the form of the Church. This Consultative Meeting is a comedy being played out to help them overcome this political fear of the voter’s shadow by passing the buck! I think it is about time we put a stop to this farce once for all. Let the freedom of choice be left to the people as God divined it. Lift Prohibition.
The writer is a IAS (Rtd)
Forest Colony, Kohima.